• Map: Associate Professor Federico Maggi, Dr Fiona Tang, University of Sydney

A recent study, published in Nature Geoscience, produced a global model mapping pollution risk caused by 92 chemicals commonly used in agricultural pesticides in 168 countries. The study examined risk to soil, the atmosphere, and surface and ground water.

The map also revealed Asia houses the largest land areas at high risk of pollution, with China, Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines at highest risk. Some of these areas are considered "food bowl" nations, feeding a large portion of the world's population.

University of Sydney Research Associate and the study's lead author, Dr Fiona Tang, say the widespread use of pesticides in agriculture — while boosting productivity - could have potential implications for the environment, human and animal health.

"Our study has revealed 64 per cent of the world's arable land is at risk of pesticide pollution. This is important because the wider scientific literature has found that pesticide pollution can have adverse impacts on human health and the environment," says Tang.

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